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«The London School of Economics and Political Science Wine In Their Veins: France and the European Community’s Common Wine Policy, 1967-1980 Maria ...»

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The social significance of wine in Europe is evident throughout centuries of wine-growing in Europe; yet essential aspects of the wine regime have not been sufficiently addressed. The role of non-state actors and of the agency of regions is often marginalised in the political history of the EEC. One contribution which attempts to deal with this is Kolleen M. Guy’s When Champagne Became French, where she looks at one narrow topic through a longer time frame. Her book is a thorough analysis of the progression of champagne from a rare sparkling wine to an exalted, celebratory, upper-class symbol, one which became inextricably tied to ‘Frenchness.’ Guy’s work aptly demonstrates that regional identifications persisted even in the face of market forces and national integration in the first decade and a half of the twentieth century; my analysis helps determine their prevalence in the 1970s, in the face of market forces and supranational integration. The highlight of Guy’s work’s approach is her identification of sub-state actors. She traces how local forces and private companies worked together, though not always harmoniously, and how they in turn as individuals or as a unit worked with or against the state. Her weakness is the myopia of her work- she uses the story of champagne to make far-reaching statements about the nature of the French national project. The strength of my research is to be able to make some broader comments, through carefully analysing changing power relations, about France’s experience in integration.

Another social history which highlights non-state actors and regional issues is Eugen Weber’s final opus, Peasants into Frenchmen: The Modernization of Rural France, 1870-1914.

Impressive and sweeping, it attempts a comprehensive survey of rural France’s integration into modern France. Weber argues that rural France in the first two-thirds of the 1800s was a collection of individuals pays which were distinct linguistically, geographically, and even culturally. He then attempts to demonstrate how these groups managed to integrate into the modern world, as exemplified by Paris, from 1880 until the beginning of WWI. Ultimately, the ‘Frenchman’ was born by 1914; the experience of war then cemented such an identity.

Unfortunately, an interesting discussion of wine is quickly terminated with Weber’s statement that his purpose is ‘not to chronicle the growth of the wine industry or of any other’42 but simply demonstrate how accessibility to good roads and tracks changed the distribution of goods in France. His focus, however, on non-state actors and on French regions is interesting and enriching, even though his methodology includes a haphazard patchwork of mostly folkoric primary sources. Weber’s explanation of the mechanisms of change at this time in France are not necessarily novel, but his insights about the national project and the integration of regions being akin to colonialisation by an imposed centralisation are important, as they begin a dialogue about the nature of the relationship between the French state and its departéments and régions to which mine contributes, half a century after Weber terminates his discussion.

Guy and Weber, though linked in their approach to studying the rural component of French nation-state integration by identifying and analysing a variety of governmental and nongovernmental actors, differ in their ideas about the agency of regions. Guy disagrees with Weber by challenging the idea of rural France as being passively colonised culturally by the core in Paris.43 She suggests the communities took a greater, more active role in this integration than might have been previously accredited by standard modernization histories.

A main part of my methodology is the use of actors from not only the national and supranational levels, but also sub-national and non-state actors. My research will elucidate what the situation is like in the 1970s (both previous works conclude their analyses at 1914),

Eugen Weber, Peasants into Frenchmen: the modernization of rural France, 1870-1914 (Stanford, Calif.:

Stanford University Press, 1976), 217.

See for instance Guy, When Champagne Became French: Wine and the Making of a National Identity, 185.

what tools the regions have then at their disposal, how they interact with the metropoles of Paris and Brussels, and how successfully they do this.

Finally, Leo Loubère’s Wine Revolution in France, a socio-economic history of the French wine industry in the twentieth century, has been a useful general reference throughout this work. Loubère’s comprehensive and long-term range is both engaging and informative. His work is focused on understanding the broad transformative aspects of what he terms the French ‘wine revolution’ of the twentieth century, particularly since 1945. A variety of pressures, including the volatility of pricing, declining consumption, changing tastes, and emerging new markets, pushed French wine industry to respond. This response, however, was uneven, Loubère argues, because of the inherently regional nature of wine growing in the country. The greatest drawback of Loubère’s work, however, is however, his lack of primary resources. In a way, his deep, personal immersion in the history of wine has meant a book which is rich in stories and under-referenced throughout – Loubere himself admits that he had ‘not spent much time in public archives’44. While he claims this is ‘in part because recent collections are not yet open to the public’45 (many of them are now, which is one advantage of my work over his), he also claims that it is ‘in part because the documents are accessible, chiefly quantitative data, have appeared in publications located in national and local agencies of the state’46. But this admission, which suggests Loubère thought quantitative data was primarily was what needed to supplement his vast personal knowledge, does not sufficiently make up for the lack of primary sources when it could add considerable academic depth to the treatment of his topic, particularly those of a qualitative, political nature found in the national and local agencies he refers to.

Loubère, The Wine Revolution in France, 6.

Loubère et al., The Vine Remembers, 6.


Understanding the Links between French Identity, Wine & Agriculture This thesis is underscored by the assumption that wine was and is an important part of French identity. The French have had a longstanding interest in protecting wine partly because of a broader interest in protecting agriculture. But distinct from, if complementary to, this point, the French cared about wine itself as a means of connecting them to both a conceived culture and a shared history. There are a number of broader works, particularly from anthropology, sociology, and political science, which this section will draw together to explore the connections between agriculture, wine, and identity.

French agriculture in the twentieth century was based on a foundation of agricultural exceptionalism, and was characterised by heavy state control.47 The concept of agricultural exceptionalism holds that agriculture is a special sector in the modern economy, different from most other sectors because it serves broader national interests, and as such, should be subject to heavy state intervention if necessary.48 The role of the state in modern French agriculture was established as early as 1880, when Prime Minister Léon Gambetta created a ministry with which he envisioned cutting out the middlemen at the time – local notables and lords – and having the state and peasants deal directly with each other.49 The origins of the structure of French government intervention in the twentieth century lay in organising the See chapter two of Adam D. Sheingate, The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State: Institutions and Interest Group Power in the United States, France, and Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003)., in particular pp. 54 – 56. As well, see Henri Mendras, La fin des paysans: changements et innovations dans les sociétés rurales françaises (Paris S..D..I.S., 1967). For an overview of the role of government intervention in the transformation of rural France in the twentieth century, see chapter one of Mark Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989).

This is covered in detail by Grace Skogstad, 'Ideas, Paradigms and Institutions: Agricultural Exceptionalism in the European Union and the United States,' Governance 11, no. 4 (1998); Wyn Grant, The Common Agricultural Policy (Houndsmill: Macmillan, 1997); and Darren Halpin, 'Agricultural Interest Groups and Global Challenges: Decline and Resilience,' in Surviving Global Change? Agricultural Interest Groups in Comparative Perspective, ed. Darren Halpin (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005).

Sheingate, The Rise of the Agricultural Welfare State: Institutions and Interest Group Power in the United States, France, and Japan, 54.

war-time economy. Though this intervention would subside for other sectors after 1920, it increased for agriculture: ‘Legislation on agricultural credit, farm reorganisation, new forms of property rights, agricultural education and the provision of technical and advisory services have marked this role. With the expansion of the Ministry of Agriculture, national and departmental advisory services have become an important cog in the machinery of agricultural improvement’.50 Through the 1920s and 1930s, this state involvement continued apace, and from 1945 in particular, it expanded considerably. Western European governments began to favour modernisation and technocratic decision-making, and growth and investment characterised the years from 1945 until the early 1970s.51 While in the 1970s, France roughly maintained its relative economic position amongst Western European countries, even through the two oil shocks of 1973 and 1979,52 French politicians and policymakers began to rethink the state’s heavy and expanding commitments to agricultural policy, both in terms of scope and cost.

This increase in and then normalisation of state intervention was accompanied by changes in the relationship between state actors and institutions and a variety of organisations seeking to represent farmers’ interests.53 In the 1960s and 1970s, this included an increase in agricultural syndicate groups, associations which were able to provide credit, group-owned tools, and could sell and buy the produce of its members. Yet while the rise of cooperatives has been recognised, its causes have not been explored. In ‘The Vine Remembers’, the editors discuss a particular theme described by the last of the three generations they interviewed, which included farmers active in and recalling events from the period 1975 – 1980. They constituted Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers, 17.

Pierre Sicsic and Charles Wyplosz, 'France: 1945-92,' in Economic Growth in Europe since 1945, ed.

Nicholas Crafts and Gianni Toniolo (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

Ibid., 223-224.

For a good treatment of the relationship between the state and agricultural associations in France in the twentieth century, see Cleary, Peasants, Politicians and Producers.

the group that largely ‘turned to cooperative wine-making, most intensively in areas which produce common table wine’54, but why do they do so? The explanation for has not yet been sufficiently provided. I make the argument that the European Community had a measurable influence.

This French state control of agriculture can explain part of its control of wine, but not all. The French connection to wine is deeply engrained in the popular sense of self for many French people. Both because wine is a differentiated product, with regional character, and because it is produced in many regions across France, and drunk by inhabitants in all, wine has played a part in bringing together a country composed of distinct pays; it was ‘one of the elements that helped to form the French nation on the foundations of its regional diversity’.55 In Roland Barthes’s Mythologies, he presents a series of essays on the myths informing contemporary French identity.56 His work provides examples and a kind of theoretical framework for how the French use, interpret, develop, and ingest (in some cases – as with steak, milk, or wine – literally) their modern mythologies.

To Barthes, waxing romantic about the importance of wine to the French has been done ‘a thousand times in folklore, proverbs, conversations and Literature...[and] this very universality implies a kind of conformism: to believe in wine is a coercive collective act.’ For instance, a Frenchman who ‘kept this myth at arm’s length’ would face ‘minor but definite problems of integration....The universality principle fully applies here, inasmuch as [French] society calls anyone who does not believe in wine by names such as sick, disabled or depraved: it does not comprehend him (in both senses, intellectual and spatial, of the word).’ Loubère et al., The Vine Remembers, 8.

Marion Demossier, Wine Drinking Culture in France: A National Myth or a Modern Passion (Cardiff:

University of Wales Press, 2010), 24.

Roland Barthes, Mythologies trans. Annette Lavers (New York: Noonday Press, 1972).

By contrast, a French person who had savoir boire (the know-how of drinking) would be seen as a good and trustworthy citizen, and a known entity.

Barthes argues that wine is bound up with the affairs of French society and the state:

Wine is a part of society because it provides a basis not only for a morality but also for an environment; it is an ornament in the slightest ceremonials of French daily life, from the snack (plonk and camembert) to the feast, from the conversation at the local cafe to the speech at a formal dinner. It exalts all climates, of whatever kind: in cold weather, it is associated with all the myths of becoming warm, and at the height of summer, with all the images of shade, with all things cool and sparkling. There is no situation involving some physical constraint (temperature, hunger, boredom, compulsion, disorientation) which does not give rise to dreams of wine. Combined as a basic substance with other alimentary figures, it can cover all the aspects of space and time for the Frenchman.

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